The Semiotics of Clowns and Clowning: Rituals of Transgression and the Theory of Laughter

The Semiotics of Clowns and Clowning: Rituals of Transgression and the Theory of Laughter

by Paul Bouissac


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781472521736
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date: 07/16/2015
Series: Bloomsbury Advances in Semiotics Series
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

Paul Bouissac is Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto (Victoria College), Canada. He is a world renowned figure in semiotics and a pioneer of circus studies. He runs the SemiotiX Bulletin [] which has a global readership.

Table of Contents


1. The Faces of the Clown
Appearance and identity
The making of a face
Kinds and scales of facial transformations in clowns
The crafting of a clown's make-up
The face of dominance
Interpreting the face of a clown
The modern face of the clown
When clowns go post-modern

2. The Costumes of the Clowns
The clowns' trunks
Splendor and sophistication of the whiteface
The auguste's misfits and tatters
Sociosemiotics and biosemiotics of clown costumes
Clowns in drag: cross-dressing and transvestism

3. The Clown's Workshop
The semiotics of artifacts
A visit to Charlie Cairoli's workshop
When clowns play magic
Clowns as craftsmen and engineers
The clown's barnyard

4. The Semiotics of Gags
What is a gag?
Gags in context
Rob Torres: a solo clown act in New York
The semiotic anatomy of gags
The physics of gags

5. The Game of the Rules
The language of clowning
The straight, the tight, and the loose
Identity: one in two, two in one

6. Clown and Trickster
Master of tricks
Too good to be true
Transgression and consequences
Master of fire
The trickster and his avatars
Understanding tricksters and clowns
Peering in the cultural past: a reasoned speculation

7. Clowns and Gender Play: Politics and Economy of Sex
Beyond sex and gender
Images of desire
An odd couple
A “normal” couple
A bird tale
Gender play

8. Clowns, Death, and Laughter
Death at the circus
Death of the auguste
Realm of the macabre: ghosts, corpses, and skeletons
Clowns and death in the arts: laughter at the edge

9. Profaning the Sacred
The avatars of Clown
A grand narrative and its fractal performances
The sacred and the profane
Putting things inside out and upside down

10. Clowns without Borders
Mapping clowns on the world
Clowns without borders?
Clowning beyond the cultural fences
Clowning in Java
The gentrification of clowns
Clowns with a mission

Conclusion: Contribution to the Theory of Laughter
What is laughter?
The meaning of laughter
Senseless laughing
Laughter as addiction: a hypothesis and an agenda


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